Introducing Album per diem

It is funny how life’s tune changes. Four years ago, I was pretty well set on writing about sports. I still love sports, but writing about them just isn’t as high of a high as it used to be. Sure, I’ll still get worked up from time to time and feel the need to berate or praise some sporting figures, but I’m not the constant hot take machine I used to be.

How life typically goes is that one leaves and another thing comes in to fill that void. My life has seen a shift from sports to music. Not the performing of these things, I’m not good enough to do that, but music has taken the place to think about it, analyze and, frankly, care about.

I tell you this to tell you about my latest project: Album per diem

Per diem is Latin for “per day” or “for each day”. That means right here on this very website, I am going to listen to, analyze and write about a different album every single day. Is this a big undertaking? Maybe. There’s only one way to find out and that’s to jump in and do it.

This is all going to kick off on February 1. Get your popcorn ready.

I’m always trying to diversify and expand my musical knowledge and this is my way of doing that. I hope to help myself and help turn my lovely readers on to some music they might not have heard of before.

What albums are going to be on Album per diem during the month of February? Glad you asked:

  • 1: Al Green – Full of Fire#
  • 2: Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night
  • 3: Roseanne Cash – Seven Year Ache#
  • 4: Queen – Innuendo
  • 5: Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night*
  • 6: Neil Diamond – Tennessee Moon
  • 7: Buck Owens – Roll Out The Red Carpet
  • 8: Merle Haggard – It’s All In The Movies#
  • 9: Phil Collins – Face Value
  • 10: Diana Ross – Diana Ross (1976)
  • 11: Kanye West – Waves*
  • 12: John Coltrane – Ascension#
  • 13: Drake – If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
  • 14: Heart – Dreamboat Annie
  • 15: Alabama – Feels So Right#
  • 16: Journey – Captured#
  • 17: Imagine Dragons – Smoke + Mirrors
  • 18:  Jackson Browne – Lives In The Balance
  • 19: Earth, Wind & Fire – Earth, Wind & Fire#
  • 20: Willie Nelson – The Sound In Your Mind#
  • 21: Jason Mraz – Geekin’ Out Across The Galaxy
  • 22: Adele – 21
  • 23: Jimmy Buffett – Coconut Telegraph#
  • 24: Kid Rock – First Kiss
  • 25: Juice Newton – Juice#
  • 26: Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep*
  • 27: Dave Matthews Band – Everyday
  • 28: Bruce Springsteen – Hammersmith Odeon London ‘75
  • 29: Olivia Newton-John – Come On Over

All of these albums have been/will be released in the month of February. All these albums are either the one, five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50 or 55 year anniversary of the album or day of release. The * means that it is a day-of-release appearance on Album per diem, so, for example, the day that Kanye drops Waves, I’ll listen to it and I’ll let you know if it is in fact the ‘album of a life’.

The # means that the album was released sometime in the month of February. Yes, all the other albums are the exact day anniversary. I’d love to keep it that way, but the further you go back in history the more Wikipedia only lists the release month  instead of the exact release date.

To quote Taylor Swift, “it’s going to be forever or it’s going to go down in flames.” Either way, I’m very excited to get this project going and to immerse myself in a whole lot of music.

Until then I’m going to go scan my radio until I find Justin Bieber’s ‘Love Yourself’ because that may be one of the most perfect songs released in my lifetime. I’m serious.

May the music be ever in your favor.


Don’t let Chris Stapleton be country radio’s flavor of the month

I will admit that before last Wednesday’s CMA Awards, I had not listened to a whole lot of Chris Stapleton. I heard the track ‘Traveller’ a handful of times and maybe a couple other tracks, but never the Traveller album as a whole. I made myself change that the very next day.

I immediately regret not doing so earlier.

The rumblings have made it here to the upper Midwest that the industry loved Chris Stapleton and he was compelling to me, but I just simply never got around to listening. Even with the word that the industry loved him, I doubted he’d win a single CMA Award nonetheless sweep the three awards (new artist, album and male vocalist) he was up for.

Now it’s history that it was Stapleton’s night. Between the three big wins and the amazing performance of ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Drink You Away’ with Justin Timberlake, Stapleton is the main thing the music world has been talking about for the past week.

His sudden national stardom is showing, too. Stapleton got to number one on the Billboard 200 this past week, selling over 153,000 copies of Traveller. Plus, Stapleton’s new single, ‘Nobody to Blame’, was the second most added song on country radio according to Country Aircheck, only behind Eric Church’s ‘Mr. Misunderstood’.

This is all great, but it’s only great if this stardom lasts.

Stapleton’s wins have spurred up the conversation that he might save country music, but to that I have multiple rebuttals.

Jamey Johnson had the same phenomenon happen to a lesser extent when ‘In Color’ won Single of the Year at the CMAs and ACMs in 2009. That has rolled into five singles from Johnson since ‘Color’ with the highest charting at number 34.

It happened with Kacey Musgraves in 2013 after she won the Grammy for Best Country Song for ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ and the Grammy for Best Country Album for ‘Same Trailer Different Park’. Musgraves’ success there has resulted in only one more top ten single despite producing some of the best country music in the last handful of years.

Stapleton is really good and he’s made a fan of me, but I don’t want this to all equal out to nothing again. The music that Stapleton is making is what country music should be and a lot of people agree with that, but yet people don’t demand that and that’s what has been putting a limit to radio success of him and Kacey Musgraves before him.

If you truly think that Stapleton’s beautiful country music should be what is actually heard on country radio, make sure the radio station you listen to knows. Request the heck out of Stapleton, and Musgraves while you’re at it, and let the music directors know that changes need to be made.

Country radio is paying attention to Chris Stapleton, but they’ll only pay attention for so long. Listeners need to make sure that Stapleton doesn’t turn into the flavor of the month… or the flavor for only the next two weeks.

CMA Awards: Predicting the winners at the 49th CMA Awards

Country music has a lot of award shows, but you can oversaturate the market with them if you get the ratings and, well, country music is a big draw. The night will be full of big performances, can’t get much bigger than an opening number from Eric Church and Hank Williams Jr., and, of course, the crowning of the night’s champions in a multitude of categories.

Let’s predict who’s going home with the hardware while also saying who should be going home with it when the night is done. You can watch the 49th CMA Awards on ABC on Wednesday, November 4 at seven central.

Music Video of the Year

Three really fun music videos against two pretty serious ones are what we have on the docket this year. The category is dominated by women this year which is about the only thing that women are allowed to dominate in today’s country music word.

The nominees are:

  • Biscuits – Kacey Musgraves
  • Girl Crush – Little Big Town
  • Girl in a Country Song – Maddie & Tae
  • Little Red Wagon – Miranda Lambert
  • Something in the Water – Carrie Underwood

I love Kacey Musgraves, something I will probably mention a couple more times throughout this post, but her video wasn’t played enough to win the award. I hadn’t seen it until I searched it out. Great video, but probably not enough juice to win the award. Girl in a  Country Song was nothing special of a video.

A good rule to live by is that if something fun is going up against something serious in a music awards show, it’ll go to the thing that is serious. Sorry to my favorite video of the year, Little Red Wagon. The video is one of the most fun videos in years in country music and I wish it would win.

The last two videos are both absolutely beautiful, but I am leaning Little Big Town and Girl Crush to win. Girl Crush is very straight forward, but very powerful and almost chilling in the black and white presentation. It’s going to be a big night for that song and it’ll start in the video category.

Winner: Girl Crush – Little Big Town

Who should win: Little Red Wagon – Miranda Lambert

Musical Event of the Year

Are you ready for some duets?! Or at least that’s what I think they really should be in this category. Only two songs in the category are true duets with both parties sharing an equal, or close to equal, amount of signing. The other three have a main star with the other person noted basically being a flashy background singer.

The nominees are:

  • Django and Jimmie – Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard
  • Lonely Tonight – Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe
  • Raise ‘Em Up – Keith Urban featuring Eric Church
  • Smokin’ and Drinkin’ – Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town
  • Wild Child – Kenny Chesney with Grace Potter

Again we have the case of a song not being too well-known to the masses, despite being pretty darn good, my apologies to Willie and Merle. Of course, that one is one of the only two that are true duets. We’ll talk about the other one in a bit.

Blake Shelton features a lot of people in his music and none of it is overly amazing. Lonely Tonight is a good tune, but I don’t think the addition of Ashley Monroe really adds to the song or the event of it. Wild Child by Kenny Chesney pairs him up with Grace Potter once again and it turns into a beautiful creation once again. Part of me tells me that it wins, the other part says since it’s another edition of Kenny and Grace that it loses its speciality.

Smokin’ and Drinkin’ features a lot of Little Big Town on the background vocals and it produces a kickass wall of sound, but it completely flopped at country radio. That shouldn’t really affect how the song is judged, but people were judging that it shouldn’t be played on the radio, so that hurts it.

That leaves us with Raise ‘Em Up, the collaboration between Keith Urban and Eric Church.  Church usually doesn’t record things that he doesn’t write and he didn’t write this song. The writing in this song is brilliant and it really deserves bigger awards than the Musical Event of the Year. Urban and Church blend so nicely together and it truly is a great even since it combines two of the biggest names in country music today.

Winner/Who should win: Raise ‘Em Up – Keith Urban and Eric Church

Song of the Year

Always one of the hardest categories every single year.  This category takes all the great songs in country music and limits it to five and then we try to choose from there. It sounds easy, but it’s not, except for this year… It seems pretty easy this year.

The nominees are:

  • American Kids – Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally
  • Girl Crush – Liz Rose, Lori McKena and Hillary Lindsey
  • Like a Cowboy – Randy Houser and Brice Long
  • Like a Wrecking Ball – Eric Church and Casey Beathard
  • Take Your Time – Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne

As I said for the videos, serious overtakes anything fun so American Kids is out right from the start. I’m always more impressed with artists who write their own songs and three of the five nominated songs were co-written by the performing artist. Take Your Time is the best song that Sam Hunt has released to date, but it’s pop-qualities are enough to knock it out. Like a Wrecking Ball is a great song, but it’s about sex and that’s still a little taboo for recognition in country music. We like it, but we don’t love it. Like a Cowboy is a good song too, but it wasn’t all out amazing.

Girl Crush is all out amazing. I remember listening to Little Big Town’s Pain Killer album for the first time and when I listened to Girl Crush the first time, I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It was so beautiful and so well written. I had to listen to it over and over and over again. It’s a real shame that radio overplayed the song, because I am less compelled to listen to it over and over and over again, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still one of the best country songs ever written.

Winner/Who should win: Girl Crush

Single of the Year

What’s the difference between single and song of the year? Glad you asked. Song is very lyrically based. That category looks for songs that touch your heartstrings or make you laugh out loud or make you feel a feeling and are very well written. Single of the Year is more wide open and looks more at the success of the song than a critical eye at the song.

The nominees are:

  • American Kids – Kenny Chesney
  • Girl Crush – Little Big Town
  • I Don’t Dance – Lee Brice
  • Take Your Time – Sam Hunt
  • Talladega – Eric Church

For Single of the Year, I usually try to find the song that was most overplayed and, oh boy, do we have a competition for that spot. Girl Crush and Take Your Time were both incredibly overplayed, but both are very good songs.

Sam Hunt has an incredible amount of popularity outside of the country music world, but Little Big Town found a lot of success outside of the country music sphere for Girl Crush, too. Both songs did appear on the Billboard Hot 100 with Girl Crush peaking at 18 and Take Your Time at 20.

It’s a total coin-flip between the two, but I have a hunch that the Girl Crush train will keep on crushing it.

Winner/Who should win: Girl Crush

Album of the Year

I am one of the few crazy people in this world that still buys albums. Yes, all of the songs and, I hope your sitting down, the physical copy of the album. I can count on my fingers how many songs I’ve downloaded off of iTunes. I love albums and one of my favorite albums of all-time is on this list. I have actually bought that album twice: one CD, one vinyl.

The nominees are:

  • Old Boots, New Dirt – Jason Aldean
  • Pageant Material – Kacey Musgraves
  • Pain Killer – Little Big Town
  • The Big Revival – Kenny Chesney
  • Traveller – Chris Stapleton

Well, my friends, Mercury Records is going to go home with an Album of the Year award, but which of their two nominees will win it. Going the Mercury route eliminates Old Boots, New Dirt, Pain Killer and The Big Revival. All three are really good albums, but not as good as the other two. Old Boots might not even be Aldean’s best album, American Kids is the best Chesney album in years but still doesn’t compete and Pain Killer has my favorite producer, Jay Joyce, but doesn’t stand up to Musgraves or Stapleton.

I will openly admit, I have listed to Pageant Material about 100 times more than Traveller, so I might be a little biased, but I still think Pageant Material wins.  I try to write down the best lyrics I hear and seemingly half of those are off of Miss Musgraves’ latest album it’s that good.

I’m all in on Pageant Material, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Traveller steals it.

Winner/Who should win: Pageant Material

New Artist of the Year

This is the most screwed up category in the history of award shows. Seemingly, every year, no matter what awards show, there is always a candidate that is overqualified to be in the running. It’ll be obvious when you see it.

The nominees are:

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Sam Hunt
  • Maddie & Tae
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton

The one that is overqualified is Thomas Rhett by a landslide. Rhett right now is on a five straight songs going to number one streak. Maddie & Tae just released their third single, Kelsea Ballerini is on number two, Sam Hunt is one number four overall and Chris Stapleton has had two singles in his career and the title track to Traveller didn’t even chart.

It’s simple, but it depends how you look at the New Artist category. If it’s career to date, it’s Thomas Rhett. If it’s in the past calendar year or so, Sam Hunt is probably the favorite. I’ll go Rhett since he’s had the more successful career to date, but Hunt should win if truly this was a ‘new artist’ competition.

Winner: Thomas Rhett

Who Should Win: Sam Hunt

Vocal Duo of the Year

This is the biggest slam dunk of the night. Why did they even vote?

The nominees are:

  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae
  • Thompson Square

Next year this might actually be a conversation, but it’s still going to be all FGL. Brothers Osborne are still a little too fresh and only have two single to their name, only one the past calendar year, and their first album does not drop until 2016. Maddie & Tae will challenge next year, too, but not yet. Dan + Shay is an interesting duo, but they have only had one single this year. Thompson Square was nominated because they needed five for the category.

Florida Georgia Line has won the award the last two years and they’ll make it three in a row on Wednesday night. The scary thing is that their music gets better as they age and might be just in the beginning of quite the run of wins.

Winner: Florida Georgia Line

Vocal Group of the Year

The category on its face has some big names, but when you really look into it, it is simply a two band race. Picking between the two bands is a real challenge and it’s definitely one of the hardest choices of the night.

The nominees are:

  • Lady Antebellum
  • Little Big Town
  • Rascal Flatts
  • The Band Perry
  • Zac Brown Band

Let’s quick take out the three non-contenders. Lady Antebellum is good, but they did not have an outstanding year. Rascal Flatts is still trying to revive their career and finding radio success in about every other single, but still are not comparable to their prime. The Band Perry took a year off and are now just firing the engines back up. The Band Perry’s first single off of the break, Live Forever, was a flop at country radio, too.

That leaves us with Little Big Town and Zac Brown Band. Little Big Town has won the award three years in a row from the CMAs and are destined to have a big night of wins with or without the Group of the Year. Zac Brown Band hasn’t won the award from the CMAs yet and had a heck of a good year.

Little Big Town had a smash in Girl Crush and a new album in Pain Killer. Zac Brown Band had smash hits in Homegrown and Loving You Easy and a spectacular new album in Jekyll and Hyde. The ZBB is musically and talentedly better than LBT, but is that enough for them to break the streak?

I feel like the CMAs are going to go all-in on Girl Crush this year and that’ll include another Group of the Year victory for Little Big Town.

Winner: Little Big Town

Who should win: Zac Brown Band

Male Vocalist of the Year

It’s like the song/single category. Everyone has a case in this category. I would not be shocked if any one of the five win the award which makes the picking and analyzing of the category a very difficult thing to do.

The nominees are:

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Blake Shelton
  • Chris Stapleton

Let’s just go in order. Dierks has released some really good songs this past year with Say You Do and Riser. He’s a great singer and has been doing great charitable things as well. Dierks is a star in country music, but not as big of a star as the three candidates in the middle of the list which sadly might just knock Dierks out of the running.

Luke Bryan released an album (two if you include his final Spring Break venture), every song he releases goes to number one and had a stadium tour. Everybody loves Luke and it’s hard to bet against him.

Eric Church is a star that everybody loves, but his radio success is really weird. The public loves everything that Eric releases, but on the charts sometimes the songs don’t get as high as they should. That worries the huge Church fan inside of me, but he still has as good of an argument as anyone.

Blake Shelton has gained throngs of fans due to his coaching on The Voice, but he didn’t release a record this year. On the other hand, a lot like Luke, every single that Blake releases eventually goes to number one. He’s got a good shot.

The critics love Chris Stapleton, but how much is he loved when it comes to the voting. Stapleton deserves the awards he’s nominated for, but it still seems that award shows are always weary to give the award to anyone that isn’t a household name and Stapleton simply isn’t there yet. I just can’t get a feel for what the people that vote feel about Stapleton, he could win this or he could finish in dead last.

So where do we turn? When in doubt… Luke out.

Winner: Luke Bryan

Female Vocalist of the Year

It wasn’t that long ago that a big topic in the world of radio was that female artists were not well-represented. It’s not perfect, but there are some solid artists on this list that are making females heard once again. Hell, there’s some on this list that we should hear a whole lot more of on the radio.

The nominees are:

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Kacey Musgraves
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Lee Ann Womack

Our first issue is that, well, there still isn’t enough music from females on the radio airwaves. I can’t remember the last time I heard a Lee Ann Womack song on the radio. She’s very talent and should still be getting some spins, but she’s not and she is eliminated.

Kelsea Ballerini has started her career like a shot from a gun and I wouldn’t be shocked if she wins a couple of these awards before her music career is over, but this won’t be the year. Ballerini is still too young and hasn’t quite done enough to take this from the grasp of the two main heavyweights.

Sadly, Kacey Musgraves isn’t one of those two heavyweights. Musgraves released the wonderfully amazing Pageant Material, but still isn’t getting radio airplay. She should be the winner of this award, but she’s not going to be.

Miranda Lambert has won the award for five straight years. Carrie Underwood won this award three straight years from 2006-2008. Taylor Swift was squished in the middle of the two runs. It’s been a fight between Lambert and Underwood for years and it’s here again.

Underwood will re-claim the crown this year. Lambert hasn’t had the same success she has had the last five years this year and Underwood has released two great songs from her Greatest Hits compilation, plus her new album Storyteller should push her ahead of Lambert. I would not be opposed to any of the last three mentioned winning, but I think the co-host of the CMAs will be handed this trophy.

Winner: Carrie Underwood

Who should win: Kacey Musgraves

Entertainer of the Year

Two artists in the history of the CMAs have won the Entertainer of the Year award a record four times and that tie could be broken by either artist this year. We could have one artist defend his title from last year or we could have a brand new winner. No matter what happens in this category, there will be a fun story to go along with it.

The nominees are:

  • Garth Brooks
  • Luke Bryan
  • Kenny Chesney
  • Eric Church
  • Miranda Lambert

I believe we can eliminate two artists, sadly, right away. Eric Church and Miranda Lambert simply didn’t have big flashy enough tours this year to compete with the other three. It also doesn’t help that Church and Lambert’s latest albums are both over a year old. Both are great artists that should win this award sometime in their career, but it won’t be this year.

Throughout this piece, I have been harping on radio play and how important that is. That makes this difficult for me. Luke and Kenny both have a lot of radio airplay, but Garth does not share that same benefit. On the other hand, no one is selling out arenas over and over and over again quite like Garth has this past year in his comeback tour.

Luke and Kenny are selling out stadiums, sure, but Garth is playing to more people on more nights and making more of a stir. The guy has a DVD boxset called The Entertainer, for crying out loud. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the CMAs to give the award to someone not exactly in their prime with George Strait winning the award just two years ago.

I’m a huge Garth fan and I’m sure it’s clouding my judgement a little, but I still don’t see how anyone can claim he isn’t the best entertainer of the past year. I’ll take Kenny over Luke if they don’t go the old guy’s way, but they really need to be going his way.

Winner: Garth Brooks

There we have it. All of the major award categories at the 49th CMA Awards broken all the way down. It’s some of the stiffest competition in years which speaks wonders about the future of country music. Fans have a lot to look forward to on Wednesday night and on their radio for years to come.

Watch the CMAs with the rest of the world on November 4 at 7:00 central on your local ABC station.

40th Anniversary Retrospective of Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run

A little over a year ago, on this very website, I wrote my 30th Anniversary Retrospective of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA which was a fun experience and an endeavor that didn’t hit me to do until the evening of the day of. I am much more prepared for Born to Run… I’m beginning the adventure the night before Run’s 40th birthday.

Not to overstate the importance of Born to Run, but this album is the reason that Bruce Springsteen is Bruce Springsteen. The lead single off the album was the title track which gained Springsteen popularity and, to use a phrase that is overused, the rest is history.

It doesn’t even take you an hour to listen to the album as a whole, 39:26 to be exact, but the term ‘short, sweet and to the point’ was made for this remarkable Springsteen album.

So without further delay, let’s talk about each song on Born to Run on it’s 40th anniversary (August 25, 2015).


Thunder Road

Bruce Springsteen entered my life late in high school. Senior year is when it finally hit that this guy from New Jersey was speaking right to me. The first time I listened to The River was driving to move into my freshman dorm for college. That album felt like newfound freedom. Maybe it was just ‘Independence Day’, but whatever that feeling was is multiplied tenfold in ‘Thunder Road’.

You would never think that the combination of harmonica and piano would sound so good, but it sounds like pure gold to kick off this album.

As I grow older, I grow fonder of the namecheck of Roy Orbison in the opening breaths because Orbison is amazing and not enough people are exposed to Orbison. YouTube him, kids.

The thing Bruce does better than anybody is he names his characters. I care about Mary and Mary is fictional, at least to us. I hope Mary took that long walk from her front porch to Bruce’s front seat.

Yes, I am cheating with the favorite line portion. The last stanza is just too darn good to pick apart.

Favorite line: They scream your name at night in the street, your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet. And in the lonely cool before dawn, you hear their engines roaring on, but when you get to the porch they’re gone on the wind. So Mary climb in. It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.


Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

This is one of the weirdest Springsteen songs. Anyone that doesn’t think it’s a little bit weird is a little too weird themselves. To prove the weirdness, nobody knows what a ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ actually is… at least, Springsteen isn’t really telling us what it is. Whatever it is, it sounds cool.

This song is about the formation of the band, mainly how Springsteen paired up with the late great Clarence Clemons, one of the best saxophone players to ever grace this little marble we call Earth. That is what makes this song great.

I have only seen Springsteen once in my life. That was back in 2012, about the toddler stage of my Springsteen fandom, they played this song at the show I was at and it hit me how important Clarence Clemons was. Right after Bruce sings ‘Big Man joined the band’, the band quit and the crowd went nuts. The crowd showed their love of Clarence for minutes where his sax solo should have been and that was one of the coolest concert moments I have ever been a part of. When I catch live performances of this song on E Street Radio on SiriusXM, I get goosebumps and choke up when that part hits. It’s special.

Some songs you don’t get until you really start to know the artist and this is one of those songs. If you are just getting into Bruce, this song seems like just a fun little song, but when you are a die-hard, well, then it becomes a true classic.

Favorite line: Well everybody better move over, that’s all. I’m running on the bad side and I got my back to the wall.



Bruce Springsteen has the ability to paint the blue-collar life so beautifully. Maybe that’s why sportswriters love him so much. Sportswriters love the guys who leave it all on the field and Springsteen describes that kind of character in a good handful of his songs.

This song is about working, cars and wanting to get some loving from a lady. That is a deep shade of blue-collar. As someone deeply surrounded by blue-collar folk, I don’t know if many would come up with the line ‘she’s so pretty that you’re lost in the stars’.  I am literally jealous of that line.

I am well aware that I am very biased when it comes to Springsteen, but I think this song is so good and it’s my least favorite on the album. I don’t dislike it, but I like the mysterious Bruce. I like thinking a little bit and Bruce almost did this one too straight forward.

I am weird. That’s probably why I like ‘Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out’ more.

Favorite line: She’s so pretty that you’re lost in the stars.



This song is perfection.

I love this song so much. First off, sonically this thing is kickass. There’s songs out there that just sound good and this is one of them. When I die the piano in ‘Backstreets’ will still be playing in my mind. That’s how good this song is.

Let’s take a moment to talk about the elephant in the room, no this song is not about a homophobic relationship. The Terry, another named character from Bruce, is a woman. His live performances early had an interlude that he would improvise and it would say ‘little girl’, ‘she’ and such. Not that that kind of thing matters, but wanted to clear that up.

There is such passion and heartbreak in this song. You hear it all the way through. It’s what makes this song special. The sonic matches perfectly to the lyrics, it’s like French fries and ice cream, my friends.

The question that remains is, what the hell did Terry do to ruin this?

Also, what a killer way to close side one of a record for all you vinyl lovers out there.

Favorite line: Blame it on the lies that killed us, blame it on the truth that ran us down. You can blame it all on me, Terry, it don’t matter to me now. When the breakdown hit at midnight, there was nothing left to say, but I hated him and I hated you when you went away.


Born to Run

This one of those songs that get people hooked on Springsteen and there’s not a real mystery as to why. It’s still weird to have this song as the official anthem of New Jersey when Springsteen is signing about needing to get out of Jersey. It seems counterintuitive to me.

‘Born to Run’ makes you want to roll down the windows and blast your speakers as loud as they’ll go. I’ve done this multiple times. Living in Minnesota, I will tell you that this song has made me do that at temperatures where most people would have the heater blasting in their vehicle and not being even close to thinking about rolling down their windows.

If I ever quit a job, I am probably going to walk out the door with a Bluetooth connected speaker blasting this song just because it’s another song that just exudes freedom.

Plus, Wendy, another named character, has to strap her hands across ‘his engines’ and I think I know what that means… Go Bruce!

Favorite line: Baby this town rips the bones from your back, it’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap. We gotta get out while we’re young, ’cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run


She’s The One

Do not let the title fool you. She is not ‘the one’. Whereas ‘Backstreets’ had heartbreak pouring all over it from the beginning, this song is has a sense of haunt and excitement all wrapped up in one. Springsteen basically signs about a bad addiction and that addiction just happens to be a woman.

The narrator in the song realizes that this woman isn’t great for him, but she makes him feel good… at least she used to. She’s always there and he keeps going back. I’m just a guy that likes to write and play music, but that sounds like the definition of addiction. Some may insanity, but I am nicer than most people.

Sometimes the live versions of songs are even cooler than the studio version and I’d say this song would have that going for it. In certain live versions, Bruce and the E Street Band lead into the song with a cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘Not Fade Away’ which is maybe one of the coolest things to ever do.

The song reads like a country song, that’s what corral Springsteen would be in if he magically appeared today, but we’ll talk about that more on the next track.

Favorite line: With her soft French cream, standing in that doorway like a dream, I wish she’d just leave me alone.  Because French cream won’t soften them boots and French kisses will not break that heart of stone.


Meeting Across the River

Change this from gangsters going from Jersey to New York to, umm…, outlaws running away from cowboys and you have, my friends, the perfect country song. This song needs no changing though. The storytelling in this song is beautiful. Some details are missing, but that makes the song that more haunting, a really good haunting feeling.

We need to take a moment and point out the trumpet in this song. I could barely play saxophone in middle/high school and now am a very mediocre guitar player, but this song makes me want to learn the trumpet. This whole album makes me want to learn piano, but that trumpet is one of the highlights of this album.

Cherry is a really cool name for a chick. I wouldn’t name a future daughter Cherry, but I like it. No matter what I do, I see Steve Van Zandt every time I think of Eddie. Maybe it’s his time on The Sopranos, I don’t know.

Favorite line: Tonight’s gonna be everything that I said and when I walk through that door, I’m just gonna throw that money on the bed. She’ll see this time I wasn’t just talking. Then I’m gonna go out walking.



This song is almost too much of an epic to totally understand. Romance and violence all wrapped up together in one song which works all too well. Springsteen does a lot of things magically, but one he does better than most is now how to structure an album. ‘Born to Run’ as a whole sounds a whole lot differently on shuffle than it does in the intended order of play.

It takes a while when getting into Springsteen that he isn’t where the music stops and ends. The E Street Band is a major part of the magic in this music. The band itself is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you need some proof about how amazing they are. Once again, Clarence Clemons takes the cake on this song with the beautiful sax solo smack dab in the middle of the song.

The Rat didn’t quite have the ending he wanted, but his ending was only the beginning for his creator, the Bruce Springsteen.

Favorite line: The poets down here don’t write nothing at all, they just stand back and let it all be.


Springsteen fans absolutely adore this album. Rolling Stone did a fan poll of fans’ favorite songs and the top ten features four songs from ‘Born to Run’. ‘Backstreets’ was at seven, ‘Jungleland’ at three, ‘Born to Run’ at two and ‘Thunder Road’ at one.

Yes, the three most favorited Springsteen songs come from this one eight-song album. Half the album gets in the top ten. That is insane.

The magic of music is that if it is good it will stand the test of time. Good music you don’t really have to explain to your children, you just have to press play or put the needle down and let everybody listen and soak in what’s going on in the album.

‘Born to Run’ stands the test of time. 40 years later, people are still trying to write songs that are good as these and rarely are people succeeding.

The future of rock and roll was Bruce Springsteen and now that we are in that future, it is safe to say, Springsteen was an excellent choice.

(Girl) Crushin’ It: The Change From The Change In Country Music

“I got that real good feel good stuff, up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck.”

It’s not often that you know the exact date that a movement started, but there’s an obvious start date to the beginning of bro-country. August 6, 2012 is when it started and it only took a couple months for the new sub-genre to reign supreme on the country charts.

In August of 2012 a new country duo named Florida Georgia Line debuted on country radio. Their debut single was a song by the name of ‘Cruise’. Even if you have never listened to country music, you’ve more than likely heard the song. The song first topped the Billboard Hot Country chart in December of 2012 and held on to the number one spot a couple more weeks in that winter before a downright amazing run in the summer. ‘Cruise’ was the number one song in country music from April 20 all the way through August 24. This new sound reigned supreme for four whole months on the country charts.

How was it successful? It was a new generation’s Beach Boys music.

David Horse of the Los Angeles Times said that, “this music has an appeal not unlike the teen surfing songs of the Beach Boys or the screaming guitar, take-everything-too-far anthems of Bon Jovi and Sammy Hagar… For a young man, the allure of reckless freedom is forever strong. And it’s not just young men. I know I’ve got a 25-year-old bottled up inside my decidedly not young self who still longs for the fantasy.”

It took two whole years, a new duo and another debut single to see what had really happened to country radio. In the two years, the radio was crammed with bro-county songs which objectified women and promoted Fireball Whisky to no end, but it stopped in July of 2014.

July 15, 2014 was when a new duo named Maddie & Tae released their debut single entitled ‘Girl in a Country Song’ which slammed the lyrical content of bro-country songs. Maddie & Tae were not afraid to call out specific artists including Jason Aldean who is a full-fledged superstar in country music with 13 numbers one singles to his name.

Other superstars like Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney and Zac Brown have all spoken out too. The battle is a tough one. ‘Cruise’ is the bestselling single of all time in country music history, but the genre has revived itself from the ugly trends that started popping up in 2012.


“You got that sun tan skirt and boots, waiting on you to look my way and scoot your little hot self over here. Girl hand me another beer, yeah!”

Miranda Lambert is one of only two women that get consistent airplay on country radio right now. Between her and American Idol winner Carrie Underwood, the genre as a whole has left a lot of women behind with the bro-country craze. That fact doesn’t stop Lambert from defending the bro-country subgenre, though.miranda

In an interview with Billboard, Lambert defended the style and her friends in the business that make bro-music.

“I don’t know where ‘bro country’ came from or what it really means, but a lot of those guys are my buddies and I ­support their music. Within ­country there are lots of styles: stone-cold country, like Brandy Clark, and there’s Florida Georgia Line with what they do, which is completely different and bringing a whole new audience. There’s room for everyone.”

Lambert’s own husband has been subjected to releasing bro-country music himself. Lambert is married to fellow country music start Blake Shelton and one of his biggest hits was one of the biggest bro-country songs of all-time with ‘Boys ‘Round Here’.

“All them other boys wanna wind you up and take you downtown, but you look like the kind that likes to take it way out, out where the corn rows grow, row, row my boat. Floatin’ down the Flint River, catch us up a little catfish dinner, gonna sound like a winner, when I lay you down and love you right. Yeah, that’s my kind of night!”

collinrayeThe 1990’s changed country music, but it was way before bro-country was even thought of. Some of the aspects of the songs were there with trucks and girls, but it was said poetically. 90’s hit machine Collin Raye pointed this out in an editorial he wrote on FOX News’ website.

Raye compared the songs of yesteryear to the songs of the bro-country era and focused on their writing flair.

“I’m not saying all songs should be somber ballads or about heavy, profound emotional subject matter. On the contrary, great fun, rockin’, party songs, describing the lifestyle of blue collar country folk have always been a staple of the genre. But compare for a minute the poetic, “middle American Shakespeare” infused lyrical prose of classics like Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” or Hank Jr’s “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” or Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” or his “Ain’t Going Down (‘Till the Sun Comes Up)” to the likes of contemporary offerings like “That’s My Kinda Night”, or any of the other 300 plus songs from recent years that say the exact same thing in pretty much the exact same way. It’s like comparing a Rolls Royce to a ten speed.”garthbrooks

In the editorial, Raye pleads for Nashville and it’s executives to move past the trend of trucks and girls while pointing out that he doesn’t hold this fad against the artists of today.

“I’m not pointing a finger at the artists and especially not the songwriters. They’re simply doing what they have to do to make a living.

It’s the major label execs, the movers and shakers, the folks who control what is shoved down radio’s throat, that I am calling out. They have the power and ability to make a commitment to make records that keep the legacy of country music alive, and reclaim a great genre’s identity.”

Throughout the piece the singer with seven number one singles to his name and countless top ten hits throughout the 90’s and into the 2000’s just wants the poetry and storytelling to comeback into the genre. That’s what some who grew up on folks like Raye seem to want to.

“Might sit down on my diamond plate tailgate, put in my country ride hip-hop mixtape. Little Conway, a little T-Pain, might just make it rain.”

He looks like the kind of guy that would enjoy country music. A six-foot something farm kid, long and lanky, the kind that just simply looks like he knows all the words to more than a handful of George Strait songs. His favorite Strait song is ‘Check Yes or No’ which is pretty fitting.

kinggeorgeLogan Ahlers has been listening to country music all of his life and has had to hide listening to anything else around his family. “My parents use to have an XM-Sirius subscription and all my dad would ever listen to was Willie’s Roadhouse,” Ahlers said.

Willie’s Roadhouse is the classic country station on the satellite radio provider. Real classics like Hank Williams and early Johnny Cash and George Jones. So it’s no wonder that Ahlers can’t really show his love for other music around home.

“My dad would kill me if he heard some of what I was listening to. He didn’t like it when I played classic rock,” the senior at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls said. “Who doesn’t at least tolerate classic rock?”

Ahlers’ worries about what his father would do if he found out that he had been blasting Drake’s latest mixtape non-stop right after its release earlier in 2015.’If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late’, seemed all too literal of a title for what his dad’s reaction might truly be.

Even though he was inundated with the classics, Ahlers is still very fond of older country music. Ahlers’ His wheelhouse is the country sound that flooded the radio in the 1980’s and 1990’s and is looking for that to return to the country music that is now bouncing across America’s airwaves.

“I kind of liked the sound of Florida – Georgia Line at the beginning, but after a while I realized it wasn’t really country music,” the ex-college basketball player stated. “It was fun for a while, but their sound turned into something more than just a fad.”

Ahlers’ like many was swept up in the storm of bro-country before they knew what hit them. The sound at first was quite fresh and cool, but it soon ranked stale to most. The storytelling which made country music what it was had faded away and in came generic placeholders about good looking females and liquor, lots and lots of liquor.fgl

One of the drinks that Florida – Georgia Line sings the most about is Fireball Whisky. The year after the band’s big break, sales of Fireball was up 357%. The sound of the music was popular, the sales showed, but the quality of the tunes were diminishing.

“I like trucks and girls, but songs with emotion are what made me a big country fan,” the Worthington, Minnesota native said. “When every song on the radio is the same it takes a lot of the enjoyment out of the whole process.”

It was clear throughout the interview that meaningful country music is important to Ahlers. While the conversation had more than its share of raking bro-country over the coals, the optimism for the future of country music was refreshing.

Ahlers currently is working on a Spotify playlist for the songs he thinks will be big in the coming summer and he enjoys putting the pieces of an almost impossible puzzle together.

“I love putting playlists together,” the soil science major said. “Being proactive is just a cool aspect to it. I’m sure my five Spotify followers really enjoy it.”

Maybe it’s the fact that Ahlers isn’t just listening to commercial radio solely that gives him more hope for the genre than some. Ahlers is actively searching out for good music and it doesn’t matter to him if the song becomes a hit or is even released as a single to radio. Good music is good music to him.

Another one of Ahler’s Spotify playlists features the songs that haven’t made it into the rotation for a lot of radio stations around the country. This songs that just bubble around getting solidly into the charts can be the source of some real gems of great country songs that might not work as great commercially as others.

“I can see where bro-country songs were popular,” the 21-year-old said. “They are good party songs and those songs are really popular with people my age. Hell, I like them when I’m in that atmosphere.”

Ahlers acknowledges that one of the issues that lies ahead for country music is the fact that some of the really good songs lyrically might have a hard time getting airplay. There’s a current example with Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’.

‘Girl Crush’ is the band’s latest single to country radio. The band consists of two men and two females and in the song the females have the lead. The females sing about wishing they could ‘taste her lips’ which have made some country music listeners squirm, those listeners not realizing that the song has nothing to do with lesbianism. The singer wants to ‘taste her lips, because they taste like you’, that you being the man she loves. She’s just jealous of the woman and has on a ‘crush’ on her because she has the man.

tim-mcgraw-diamond-rings-and-old-barstoolsThe other side of the coin is also there. Tim McGraw’s ‘Diamond Rings and Old Barstools’ is shooting up the charts and the song has the sound of a classic country track, something that isn’t heard too often on the radio anymore.

“There are some saving graces to country music,” the well-stretched man said. “I love what Miranda Lambert is doing. Eric Church has done some very cool things. Plus, Garth Brooks is back in the saddle again, who knows where that may lead the country music scene.”

Ahlers is still kicking himself for not going to any of Brooks’ shows when he was in Minneapolis this past November.

“I’ve been listening to Garth my whole life and I still can’t believe I didn’t go,” Ahlers said. “I had plans to go and I know he’ll be back again, but it still amazes me I didn’t go.”

There’s three main backbones to Ahlers’ country music listening: Alan Jackson, Strait and Brooks. If only we country could be so lucky to get back to the prime of those three.

“I think bro-country has run its course,” the music aficionado said. “It might sprout up now and again, but I think we’ve weeded it out. We see it clearer now and It won’t be allowed to blossom… at least to the extent of tainting the genre like it did.”

“You can hang your t-shirt on a limb. Hit that bank and we can ease on in. Soak us up a little moonlight, you know I know what you like, yeah!”

Ahlers isn’t alone in that belief. Well-known names in the show business word side with Ahlers on the fact that bro-country is dead. The latest big name to let their voice be heard is Britney Spears’ 24-year-old little sister Jamie Lynn Spears.

This Spears isn’t just riding on her sister’s coattails. Spears came into the public eye with her Nickelodeon teenage-driven TV show Zoey 101 in the mid-2000’s. After leaving the show and having a child at the age of 16, Spears is back but this time in Nashville as part of the country music scene.I GOT THE BOY

Spears released her first country album in 2013 and is writing songs for other artists too, including a song currently climbing the charts for Jana Kramer called ‘I Got the Boy’. Spears has come out strongly against bro-country saying to Taste of Country that the fad is over.

“I’ve definitely heard some music this year that is away from that pattern. I think there’s always gonna be a place for that, because there’s a huge fanbase. It does bring a lot of attention to country music, but it’s really nice to see these great songs that are coming through that are different from that, like Little Big Town‘s ‘Girl Crush.’ You see everybody going crazy about that right now.”

Spears is counting on her fellow artists and the fans to celebrate a move towards diversity again in country music.

“It’s so nice to see people supporting that,” Spears says. “I think that if all of us as artists stick together and really support each other, then we can make it possible for all of us. We can just be one big team, supporting good music and what we believe in. I think we need to be one big support system and say, ‘This is the kind of music we want to put out there for our genre,’ coming together for music we really believe in.”


“My kind or your kind is this kind of night. We dance in the dark and your lips land on mine. Oh oh oh oh oh, gonna get our love on. Oh oh oh oh oh, time to get our buzz on.”

The real metric of bro-country is chart success. Bro-country is not having the easiest time on the charts as of late. The current Hot Country Songs chart from Billboard boasts only four songs out of 25 that can be remotely considered bro-country.

Big names like Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Billy Currington and Florida Georgia Line are responsible for the four songs, but all four artists have also proven that they are capable of releasing non-bro-country songs.

To highlight it even more, the song that has been mentioned multiple times throughout by multiple people as one that is saving the genre is currently at number one. The week of May 9, 2015 boasts Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ as the number one country song with only two other bro-country song in the top 20.

‘Girl Crush’ is crushing it on multiple platforms, too. The Hot Country Chart is calculated using three mediums equally: radio airplay, sales data and streaming data. ‘Girl Crush’ is currently the number two streaming song which is paving the way. The streaming chart still has ‘Cruise’, yes that same one, at number eight on the chart. Other bro-country classics from Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan still remain, but the armor has been cracked.

The new country system will not crush the careers of Luke Bryan and FGL. Bryan is frankly too attractive to lose much popularity and FGL has a dedicated fan base, but what is being seen and what we will keep seeing is a push back to songs with actual substance; a substance even stronger than alcohol.

“Yeah, that’s my kind of night!”